The ship leaving Curaçao.
WILLEMSTAD--After several people on board its MS Braemar tested positive for coronavirus, Fred. Olsen Cruise Lines issued a statement. The 929-passenger ship is currently sailing in the Caribbean with four crew members and one passenger diagnosed with COVID-19 on board. The latest news was that the vessel would head for the Bahamas where it is registered.
Testing happened upon the ship’s arrival in Curaçao on Tuesday, with results now sent back to the Netherlands for the required secondary evaluation.
“We understand you may have some questions about what’s happening on our current Braemar cruise so wanted to give as much information as we can to keep you informed,” said the release posted online. “All of these guests and crew will continue to be looked after in isolation, along with anyone else reporting flu-like symptoms. We are continuing to follow outbreak protocols from UK Public Health to ensure everyone on board stays safe and well.
“This is, of course, a challenging and changing situation. We are working with the UK government, Chamber of Shipping and Public Health England to make arrangements which will ensure everyone gets home as soon as possible.”
Following the news, the cruise line revealed it is cancelling its next cruise, M2006 and is contacting guests separately to give them notice. “As those of you who travel with Fred. Olsen often will know – our guests and crew are our number one priority and we have a team working around the clock here and in the UK to look after everyone concerned,” continued the statement.
Guests currently on board the ship have been given free calls and WI-FI to keep in touch with friends and family. The “highest level of sanitation” is now in place aboard the ship – this includes the suspension of self-service buffets and increased cleaning around the vessel.
After St. Maarten on Wednesday denied permission to fly the other passengers out via Princess Juliana International Airport (PJIA) the captain decided to go to the Bahamas. According to the cruise operator, the captain, medical team and senior officials continue to keep all guests and crew updated on board.
The ship’s itinerary mentioned Barbados as the next destination after Curaçao, but according to sources, this was rejected. “We are now looking at where the cruise ship can dock and quarantine the passengers,” said the captain.
Among the infected persons are one or two Dutch nationals. Most people on the ship are from the Philippines and at present nine have been placed in isolation. Braemar is due to return to Southampton, England, on March 28. The ship can accommodate up to 929 passengers and was on a cruise of the western Caribbean and Central America.
It moored in Curaçao on March 10 to allow the island’s medical professionals to get samples for laboratory tests and to resupply. A spokesperson for the cruise line said: “The safety and well-being of all our guests and crew is our number one priority and we are taking the latest advice from the Foreign and Commonwealth Office and World Health Organization, as well as Public Health England and Cruise Lines International Association.”
Local epidemiologist Izzy Gerstenbluth also reiterated that residents were not at risk. The health department took all necessary precautions to deal with the issue and to give assistance to the vessel.
Reacting to the growing concern over coronavirus COVID-19, many cruise lines have updated and amended their cancellation and refund policies. These include P&O Cruises, Cunard and NCL, which have given customers more freedom when it comes to cancelling over coronavirus worries.